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US Mobile Data Traffic Expected to Top One Billion Gigabytes

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What used to be a novelty is now a necessity. In just three years, data plans and constant web access have become a requirement for the millions of smartphone users around the world. For all the Androids, iPhones, BlackBerries, and now Windows Phones 7 out there, data usage among mobile devices have increased exponentially. Although we recently learned that Netflix is allegedly responsible for 20% of peak time US traffic, the amount of data Americans consume via mobile devices continues to hit equally surprising numbers.

Chetan Sharma, an analyst for the wireless data industry, estimates that not only will average US consumption will reach 325 megabytes per month by year's end, he predicts, "the total US mobile data traffic will exceed one exabyte for the first time by the end of 2010."

To put that in perspective, one exabyte is equivalent to one million terabytes or one billion gigabytes. Tyler Miller at Phandroid notes that the data size is also equal to 50,000 years of DVD quality video.

GigaOm's Om Malik uses Apple's first entry into the smartphone market as a point of reference.

"In 2007, the year the iPhone was first brought to market, wireless data brought in about $25 billion for the mobile companies," Malik wrote. "Three years later, wireless-data revenues have doubled. The data ARPU (average revenue per user) at the time of the launch of the iPhone was about $8 a month – now it has roughly doubled to about $16.70 a month."

Malik offers some other highlights from this quarter.
  • In Q3 2010, 47 percent of the devices sold in the U.S. were smartphones, compared to 24 percent globally.
  • U.S. wireless data service revenues grew 7 percent Q/Q to $14B in Q310.
  • Verizon and AT&T accounted for 85 percent of the increase in data revenues in Q3 2010.
  • [Of average revenue per user] Per month data (blended) ARPU – Sprint $18.7 (estimated), Verizon $18.61, AT&T $17.35, T-Mobile – $12 (estimated), average $16.7
  • Nearly 21 percent of T-Mobile USA subscribers are on the smartphone.
  • Data now accounts for about 33 percent of total ARPU for carriers in the U.S. Sharma predicts that in 2013, one should expect data and voice revenues to be roughly equal for the U.S. carriers.
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